Potluck

 

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Potluck 2.0 launching soon! See you in the new year!

 

Two Poems


Fly Trap
 

From your mattress
in the morning, it
looks like a two-foot
long condom hanging
from a hook, orange,
twirled like taffy
poured from a can,
dotted with its trophies. 

I see it when I wake
to the memory of your fist
against my chest, your hand
open-palmed against my cheek— 
that hasn’t happened yet,
but it’s something you said
last night—maybe,
“I guess I just assumed
you’d be the bottom,”

or,

“You mean if I choked you
during sex it wouldn’t be ok?” 

Sometimes I wish I were a woman
so at least I could say
all men are the same:

wolves. But then, you tell me,
honey, don’t you? You tell me

I’m the woman
and you’re the wolf,

the stallion’s thrust,
the seed, the man.

And I lay here as you snore
watching sun stream past a fly snare,
your sweaty skin stuck to my back
and a bruise blossoming
on the corner of my

affection, a fly
in your trap, a nice
shiksa lady to bring
home to your Jewish

mother. 

 

 




                                                                       Said the Spider to the Fly
 

                                                                                          We
                                                                                      stand in
                                                                                  your kitchen.
                                                                                The water boils.
                                                                              A symphony swells
                                                                           from a little black box.
                                                                        “This is the kind of music
                                                                        they play when a vampire
                                                                          bites his pray,” you say.
                                                                              Yes. You are right.
                                                                                 You clutch my
                                                                                   hands, yank,
                                                                                           bite.

 

 

 

Jacob Budenz is a writer, performer, and occasional witch living in Baltimore. He keeps a small journalistic art blog at afflatusarts.tumblr.com.

ONE: Artwork by Cait Raft

1. Kim Kardashian In A Tiny Party Hat
2. Commissioned painting of Joel Embiid
3. Commissioned painting of Nerlens Noel
4. Kanye Birthday Hat #2
 

Cait Raft is a painter and illustrator and writer and very cool and very popular. She sells artwork at her shop  and is on Instagram.

Photography

Beau at Girard Park

Beau at Girard Park

Elizabeth Backbend

Elizabeth Backbend

Sarah

Sarah

 

Laura Hetzel is an artist and writer from Acadian, Louisiana currently residing and creating in New York City. She works slowly and deliberately in medium format film, capturing the awkward connection between the observer and the observed. Much of her work witnesses children's points of view growing up in the rural American South. 

Heartlocks

At three o’clock every day, Percy and I feel rest assured a guard won’t catch us. Three o’clock is when Percy climbs up into my bunk and fucks me while our hands are clasped around each other’s mouths. Percy’s doing time for robbery and I’m in for arson. Tiny arson—was a tiny house. 

When I got here, a newbie to the whole prison scene, I was scared witless. I thought maybe I’d never see my boyfriend again, that I’d be killed. Percy helped lessen that load. He was modest and he told me that everything would be alright if I just listened to him. He said he knew about prison, though I’m not so sure he was much of a threatening type. When I got there, Percy just wanted me to know the ground rules. And the number one ground rule was to not let anyone else know that you have homosexual inclinations.

The night Percy told me that was the night we first fucked on the upper bunk.

A few weeks of terrorizing adjustment later and I began falling in love with Percy. My boyfriend from the real world hadn’t come to visit and, suddenly, I felt the only conclusion I could come to was that Percy would have to be my new soulmate. 

Now, we eat together, we go out in the yard together, we work together. And no one knows a thing and that is simply because we listen to the rules and we follow the orders and we take shit from people, because we feel it is to pay off in the end. What we want at this point, more than anything else, is to start a life together, to be able to lie down by the Riviera and make love under the stars. I tell Percy often that no one sparkles as much as him.

Percy works two jobs here. When he’s gone and we are forced to be separated from each other, I spend my time reading books from the prison library. Currently, I’m lying on the bed reading something by a man named Cormac McCarthy. It is a good book. It reminds me of my childhood in Texas. It reminds me of that good movie Brokeback Mountain.

I get about thirty pages into the Cormac McCarthy book when Percy resurfaces. He walks into the room smiling. I ask him, “How was work today, my soulmate?”

He throws up his hands and spins in a circle. “Well, baby,” he says. “It was absolutely gorgeous.”

“Got those floors all cleaned?”

He approaches and seats himself next to me on the bed. Percy says, “You could lick ‘em and still be one hundred percent healthy.”

“Well,” I say. “That is no surprise. You are the best of the best, you know.”

He places an arms around my waist and says, “I cannot wait until three o’clock today.”

“You could probably sneak a handjob in,” I whisper.

“I’d hate to risk it,” Percy says, removing the hand from my waist. “See, baby, I got some good news today.”

I look up from the book and into Percy’s brown eyes. “What?” I ask.

“See, I actually had a meeting with the warden today.”

“You lied to me?”

“No, baby. I just didn’t want to work you up over nothin’, that’s all.”

I place the Cormac McCarthy book down on the bed. “Over nothing? Over nothing, Percy? What in the hell did they say?”

“Well, Mitch. Said that they’ve been noticing I’ve been on really good behavior lately. They said they’re very appreciative of it, because a lot of the other inmates have been misbehaving a bit as of late.”

“Continue.”

“They said they’re going to release me a few months early.”

I grab the Cormac McCarthy book from my side and shoot it across the room, where it hits the brick wall. I stand up and start pointing at my soulmate. “What in the fuck did you do, Percy?” I’m screaming, just screaming. “What in the hell!”

Percy stands up in front of me and says, “Now don’t you worry. I will wait for you to get out of here, alright? There is nothing to be concerned over here. Just be happy for me please, Mitch. I mean, for the first time in years I get to enjoy the outdoors. I get to listen to good music. I feel like the world is in front of me. Like I could dance to ‘I’ll Take You There’ and spill wine all over my couch.”

“You don’t have a couch, you asshole! I thought you needed only me.”

Percy grabs me tight and hugs me so tightly as I cry into his shoulder. He says, “I do need you, Mitch. And I do intend to wait for you.”

“You’ve left me with nothing.” I grab into the back of my pants, where I have been keeping it, just in case of emergency. I run the shiv into Percy’s stomach. He grabs first at his abdomen and then at me. As he does so, I continue whipping the knife around, slicing at his hand, slicing at whatever I can. He kicks me in the balls, which causes me to fall to the ground, dropping the knife. He quickly grabs hold of it and throws the razor spot on at my heart.

 

 

 

Alan Semrow lives in Wisconsin and is a graduate of English from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. His poems and fiction have been featured in multiple publications, including BlazeVOX14, Red Fez, The Bicycle Review, Earl of Plaid Lit Journal, Blotterature Lit Mag; The Rain, Party, & Disaster Society; Former People: A Journal of Bangs and Whimpers, Barney Street, and Wordplay, and he won the Essayist Award from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point English Department for his nonfiction work. In 2015, his stories are set to be featured in several journals, including EAP: The Magazine, The Radvocate, Indiana Voice Journal, andGolden Walkman Magazine. Semrow spends the majority of his free time with his boyfriend, friends, family, and Shih Tzu, Remy.

MIXED GREENS: Day Five

MIXED GREENS  is a small group of artists committed to producing work to help foster a new female voice in Los Angeles. They work primarily in printed matter, creating zines and illustrations specific to Los Angeles and Southern California themes, iconography and identities. They’ve been known to dabble in video.

AMANDA SCHARF  is a visual storyteller living in Los Angeles. Her work explores the collision of image and word primarily in print. You could say she makes up truths, but stories begin somewhere.

EMMA BERLINER  is an artist and filmmaker living and working in Los Angeles. She graduated from the Film and Television program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. But it was Emma’s first love of drawing that initially brought her to film - watching her ideas and drawings take life in an on-screen reality. She is a Sagittarius.

Still Dreaming

Privy to privacy,

prying eyes into diaries,

creases on every page turned

should've ironed out ironies,

eyeing me from across roads,

sorry about the false hopes,

feelings I tried to transcribe

(dot dot dot) remorse code,

lost souls lend lost scents,

lost her then lost him,

caution, beginning and end,

planted in theses morbid orchids,

lured toward forbidden orchards,

adamant eavesdropped, a walk to remember often.

 

Conceived in the city that never sleeps, buried in the remnants of the beautiful decay. SKRD is the greatest unknown rap legend.

They Wanted the Highway

 

          They sat across from each other at their little round kitchen table, wrinkled fingers curled around the stems of near-empty wine glasses, when she said she thought she'd overstayed her welcome in life.

            Her hand fisted around her glass so tight her veins swelled even more. His hand curved in a gnarled C, thumb resting against his glass stem's base. But she smiled a little when she spoke, and he smiled a little back, shook his head, and said no, she hadn't—he hadn't either. And there was the problem: Life still wanted them to stay a while, and they only wanted to stay long enough to polish off this last bottle of Merlot.

            They'd only drunk down to the top of the label so far, a late bland dinner half an hour behind them: steamed vegetables, boiled chicken, and the pills from the Thursday sections of their trays. Doctors and warning labels strongly discouraged them from drinking any kind of alcohol with their medicine, but she poured them each another glass, and he pressed his between both quivering palms to take a sip.

            She asked him if he wanted to go for a drive later; they used to do that all the time, heading nowhere in particular, but lately they'd had a special one in mind. He said he'd like that. Their doctors told them they really shouldn't drive anymore, with his arthritis building a stiff nest of pain in his hands, with her eyesight blurring away.

            They'd carried out this conversation over many nights, in many pieces, as the heaviest discussions should be held: not just with words but with looks and silences and little acts of rebellion. With their glasses clinking together in a question—are you with me?—and the answer one long drink, both of them at the same time—yes.

            The bottle of wine, half-full, became an hourglass, its time pouring down their throats at whatever speed they chose, though it couldn't ever be turned over again. After she topped off their glasses, it was a quarter to label's bottom. They talked about the past. He remembered bringing egg salad sandwiches to work every day, how hard it was to build skyscrapers floor by floor but also how he could twist in his harness to see the whole beautiful city when he needed a break from bolts and beams. She remembered filling her free time with painting and dancing, knitting and writing, bird-watching and piano-playing, all her little hobbies that never grew into more—but she wouldn't have loved them so much if they had. They talked about when the children were still children: Kenneth giving them such an easy time that they weren't prepared for Anthony, oh no they weren't, and Rhonda turning out with a little of both brothers in her—sometimes Kenneth-calm, sometimes Anthony-wild, and always Rhonda-spunky.

            At twenty past label's bottom, he asked her, what would their children think? They'd feel sad, they'd regret things, they'd get angry. They would definitely be shocked. She agreed they'd be all those things, but they would also be all right. And then she finished half a glass in one go and brushed the corner of her eye with her fingertips and asked him please, please not to bring up the children again, or the grandchildren, or their great granddaughter. This night belonged to the two of them and the two of them alone.

            At ten to the bottom of the bottle they started to talk about the present: all these doctors and pills and aches, and poor eyesight, forgetfulness, sitting around. Retirement just didn't suit them. They should have kept working and working, they joked. So his body became too stiff for big building construction? Work on cracked and potholed pavement, then just hold the STOP and SLOW sign, then think up skyscraper designs to be made real by others. So she couldn't read her high school students' tiny handwriting? Descend through grades at the pace of her vision's deterioration, all the way down to kindergarten where the letters filled three lines. But instead they'd quit, and their jobless days hardly seemed worth discussing, so they spent several minutes sipping in silence, smiling over how sad and silly the present seemed.

            The bottle empty, their glasses flecked with dregs, she suggested they pack bags. She liked the idea of making it like a vacation, making it seem like they were taking a road trip around the whole country, or heading to the airport and some tropical island or foreign city full of history. He said he liked that too, except he thought they should take only one small bag each and fill it with a few things that really mattered to them and a few things that didn't matter at all, and after they climbed into the car and before they drove off they would look in each other's bags and guess what was important and what wasn't. It would be like a game. She grinned so wide he could see fake and real teeth, and she said yes, except they wouldn't do the looking and guessing part—that would be too easy. Whoever found the bags later would do the looking and guessing.

            So they got to their feet, his hands pressing on the table for support. He headed for the bedroom, she to the closet to dig out two suitcases, but before she closed the door she put one back. They packed the significant and the insignificant into that single musty bag together, his and her choices mixing, every item important or unimportant to them both: the analog clock from the mantelpiece, birthday-gift ruby earrings from Kenneth, gray wool socks. They tucked in plastic loops from a six-pack of soda cans, a flyer from the first house Rhonda ever sold, a map of Rome, Anthony's Little League Polaroids, crossed-off grocery lists tucked between the pages of a hardcover Fahrenheit 451, a handful of colorful two-holed buttons sprinkled on top before they zipped everything shut.

            He helped her find her coat, and she helped him into his. She carried their suitcase out the door, his arm around her shoulders to guide her down the steps. She smiled and said see, they didn't need the children or anyone else to survive. They still got along just fine this way, thank you very much.

            They climbed into a blue sedan as battered and sturdy as their marriage, him in the driver's seat and feeling a new fondness for the touchy pedals and rasping engine as he pulled out of the driveway. His hands hardened and stuck around the wheel, became a rigid, aching part of it, but the pain would have gone in their bag as one of the insignificants, and so would the thick haze her vision threw over the houses sliding past. What really mattered stretched before them on the dim, deserted highway they turned onto, rang in the unfamiliar radio music she twisted louder, crept out of their cores with the small and bursting child's spirit that even the oldest people keep tucked away somewhere safe.

            The dashboard clock read one-oh-five and so did the speedometer when he rested his hand on hers over the center compartment in that same question, are you with me?, and she gently squeezed his fingers in that same answer, yes. And at one-oh-six he yanked a hard right on the wheel and sent their little world veering off the road and straight into a power line pole with a sharp, roaring clatter. Then nothing but smoke.

            But for them, the impact felt too slow and gentle to be called a crash. For them, the front of the car curled in a weary U around the pole much like their hands around their wine glass stems so many hours ago. Windshield and windows spiderwebbed and crumbled, and for a moment the headlights beamed face to face to form a pale tunnel of captive light. Then the engine faded out. Man and woman sat in a still and silent metal shell on the side of a still and silent highway, gripping strong and painless hands, staring at each other with wide, bright eyes.

            Eventually he asked her, what now? She turned her head just enough to look at the car embracing the pole in twenty-twenty clarity, gazed past that to the open road and its stepping stones of streetlamp spotlights leading east. She said the sun would be rising in a few hours, and wouldn't it be nice to walk on and meet it at the horizon?

            That sort of thing seemed possible now, as they left their car with the doors hanging open and what used to matter sitting in the back seat. They walked straight down the double yellow line, sensing not a single car would come. They didn't know how far the road went, where it led, or whether the sun would even rise here.

            They did know, without any exchange but their smiles, that neither really gave a damn. 

 

Kayla Tostevin has had several poems published on thecatharsis.net and a few short prose pieces printed in other Emerson College publications, including Gauge Magazine, which is where this piece is also published. She calls both ends of I-90 home and calls writing bios "uncomfortable." 

MIXED GREENS: Day Three

LESBIANS MOWING LAWNS

MIXED GREENS  is a small group of artists committed to producing work to help foster a new female voice in Los Angeles. They work primarily in printed matter, creating zines and illustrations specific to Los Angeles and Southern California themes, iconography and identities. They’ve been known to dabble in video.

Buy  the calendar here.

MIXED GREENS: Day Two

"Out of the dark night sky, celestial bodies illuminate and give us something, someone, to look up to. If you stargaze often, you can probably spot many familiar faces in the heavens. Maybe you’ve been stargazing for years and can easily make out George Clooney from your bedroom window. Maybe you can recognize Brando or Beyoncé in the night sky. So on a cool, clear night go ahead and look up. Lock eyes with Oprah."

Two Poems

 

A Spell to Draw You Near Again
 

Essential oil (tobacco/vanilla),
mint leaves (chew), honey, dress socks,
yellow shirt, three undone buttons, boots,
sharp teeth (caps will do if can’t
file teeth/smile with canine
they never filed down), warm water,
tea (no cream!), sibilance, Latin
(before, during, after—sic itur
ad astra, excelsior
), wide eyes,
talk fast, dart gaze around room
(say: I am in awe of everything),
schedule to keep, briskness, bracelets,
a hardback book, black ink, lemon,
irony, don’t want it, question marks,
interest but not much interest,
appreciation for archaeology, or
classical studies, or whatever it is
he has his degree in, gold
nail polish (just on each pinky)
don’t be dismissive, don’t want it,
don’t want it, for God’s sake
don’t let on that you want it
don’t want it and when it comes
to get you you get up and walk the
fuck away, look back once
(as though wistful), and don’t
let the door hit him
on the way out.

 

 

 

Spell for a Coy Lover
 

Lemon grass, vanilla, rose water.
You think you’re out of stories? Try

throwing your underwear at the Moon
when she dresses herself in light
for the second half of the eclipse.

Hollyhock. Maple syrup. Hazelnut.
You think you’re really alone? Try

opening your palm on concrete; trip
on the sidewalk as you run to embrace
the one you rejected the week before.

Cayenne pepper, honey, almond milk.
You think they don’t need you? Try

shutting yourself in a box
with pink and green and turquoise
walls and sleeping until snow falls.

Spring rolls. Egg drop soup. Boxed wine.
If you don’t call him

he will come.

 

 

 

Jacob Budenz is a writer, performer, and occasional witch living in Baltimore. He keeps a small journalistic art blog at afflatusarts.tumblr.com.

Sketches

 

My relationship with my dog has declined.

The table is clean because I clean it every day. To the left of me, a pile of papers that need reading. To the right of me, a cold cup of coffee. In front of me, a computer screen turned off. In the screen, my blurred silhouette. I blink but the reflection does not blink back.

On the journey home, I take the underground train. The train rattles. I prefer the crowded trains. Sometimes I like to smell people’s armpits. Other times, I press myself into the buttocks of other people. My crotch sits snugly inside the crack of strangers.

A malaise has come over my dog. Once a pooch of great dignity, it is now, unfortunately, a shadow of its former self. It lies in the basket. I pet its head. It does not lift its head to acknowledge me. I turn the dog over and expose its abdomen. The hair is sparse here. The skin is pink and occasionally pocked with dark melanomas. I see nipples. I judge the dog for its nipples. I turn the dog back around. I pet it again. I take some dog food in my hand and put it under the dog’s nose. It doesn’t respond. It may as well be dead.

Later on in the evening, I watch a documentary about processed foods and a thought comes to me: when did I stop calling my dog by its name – Bob – and start calling it ‘It’?

The city, like my dog, is not what it used to be. In the past, you could say the city and I shared a common bond. It understood me. That’s why people move to big cities – because they feel the city somehow understands them. Urban people understand their flaws and feel that a city will hold them. People fit into their grooves here. But now, the city is unresponsive.

I wander the city after work, absentmindedly, and try to find this common bond again. I go out to the eastern fringes of the city to an elevated walkway above a road that leads out of the city. The metal railings are wet with condensation and shake with the thrum of cars driving into the darkness of out there. I hold the railings and take out my genitals. I take my sack and heave it upwards in my hands and let it rest on the railings. The cold touch of the railings upon my sack. My testicles, warm from the double layers I wear, droop over the railing. The image that comes to mind is that of an egg being broken over a dome, the yolk unsure whether it is running this way or that. The railing shakes and arouses me.

Later that night, I go into the centre of the city. I find myself in the red light district. I find an alleyway behind a bar. The gutters smell of urine and disinfectant. The walls in this alleyway are tiled and I begin to lick the tiles. I run my tongue all across the tiles, tasting and feeling the textures of this city. I find a discarded brick and notice it is a brick that ‘typifies this great city’. During the 19th century, many of the bricks of this city became sooty and black in appearance. This particular brick is softer than a usual brick. I take the brick and bite into it. Although there is a risk this brick will damage my esophageal lining, it is a risk worth taking. I feel that the distance between the city and I is shorter, that my physical engagement with my surroundings has opened up a new side to me. I feel that the city and I know each other intimately.

I go back home for the weekend. I have not seen my parents in over a year. Other family members are there. For example, my two sisters. My uncles and aunts, my nieces and nephews, my grandmothers and grandfathers, friends of the family. We are all gathered around a long dining table inside a modern conservatory. On the side, there are a number of potted plants.

We eat dinner and I attempt to bond with my family. But as they look at me, they form a judgment. They are not city folk. They know what I am. They do not think about me, here, present in this house but instead they think of the ‘me’ back in the city, like a ghostly double of who I am.

When I was young, my father read me bedtime stories. But I never listened to him, instead focusing on his neck, his ears and hands. I often wondered, as a child, if my hands would be as thick as my fathers.

In the present day, I now realize my father’s hands are not thick. Perhaps they have lost their thickness, over time. Perhaps they were never thick in the first place.

As we eat dinner, I lick my two front teeth. A sudden dislocation occurs in my mind. I become self-conscious about my mouth, its movements, my teeth, all of them rooted into my skull. I put my knife and fork down and do not eat another bite of food. The licking of my teeth, reminding me of skulls, also reminded me that I was mortal.

Upon returning home, I realize I had left the dog alone in the house. The dog is dead. I turn it over and rub its stomach in a circular motion.

In what could be construed as ‘coincidence’, I see one of my friends post a picture of two basset hounds lying by an oven. A friend of my friend comments: 'Oh you’re kidding me? You have basset hounds?' He then posts two framed pictures of two more basset hounds and says: 'Our boys…sadly not with us anymore…Henry and Hecter.'

The spelling of Hecter, perhaps, should be Hector.

I bury my dog out in a park, late on a Sunday night. I do it in the middle of a football pitch.

As I go to work on Monday, I think about dogs, the city and me. I think of the comment I read - Sadly not with us anymore – and try to work a meaning into this sentence but I cannot.

 

 

 

Oliver Zarandi’s latest stories have appeared in The Quietus, HTMLGIANT, Hobart, Squawk Back, The Bohemyth and theNewerYork. 

Ustad's Encounter with a Filmmaker

I was relishing a refreshing cup of tea at the cafeteria of my friend Minocher’s newly established Writer’s Club and waiting for some journalist friends to while away the evening in some interesting discussion, when in came Ustad Bilgrami. Greeting me heartily and ordering a plate of Fish and Chips and a tall glass of Lassi ( A drink made from yogurt ), he exploded, “ We are going to see Sher Babar, a film maker in about an hour.”

“We? You mean you,” I said.

“My mission would be fruitless if you don’t accompany me.”

“But Ustad, I have a meeting scheduled in a few minutes with a few journalists, Hajrah, Fatima and Najam. We shall be discussing the evils of pan eating.”

“Forget about it. Let the pan eaters enjoy the habit while they can. There are other more important things in life to do than to have a futile discussion on pan eating, and writing about it in English papers which at the most only one percent of the population reads,” said Ustad, throwing in my direction that charismatic look which so far nobody has been able to resist.

Readers of my articles are familiar with Ustad Bilgrami, but for the sake of those who are not let me briefly introduce you who this guy is. Three decades ago he was a sports coach at the college I was studying in. He gained respect and love not for being a good coach, but for being a mentor, a guide and a genuine friend of the students he liked. He used to solve all their emotional problems in no time, turning every situation into a win-win situation. He had also helped me out of emotional disasters several times, and as such he had earned a lifetime respect. Since then he had gone out of my existence, till I bumped into him last year at Karachi’s Lal Qila. After that we remain constantly in touch, and I am made to assist him in all his adventures. Now in his eighties, he is still agile and his brain functions in top gear, probably due to generous intake of fish and lassi. Retired, he lives luxuriously on a monthly assistance of two thousand dollars (approximately two hundred thousand rupees), which his son sends him from St. Louis. He has now completely devoted himself to helping people in distress.

Presently, saying “no” to him was just impossible. “But why do you want to see this film maker who has a record of turning out trash?”

“To remove the distress which my favorite niece, Naila is facing.” 

“How does Naila come into the picture?”

“One of those queer turns of fate,” he said and explained. “Some time back she had gone to a young peoples’ club and, like her other friends, indulged in an innocent dance. It so happened that Sher Babar was there filming a sequence for his forthcoming film Tapka Dunga (will kill you). The camera captured Naila doing a beat. Sher liked the footage and approached her to get her permission to use the footage in the film, for which he would pay thirty-five thousand Rupees. Since it was a decent scene of short duration, Naila agreed. She signed the contract and accepted the check.”

“So what’s the problem now?”

“The problem is that she overlooked reading the small print at the bottom which says that if need be, she has to appear in the studio and do a song and dance number for his movie, and you know how these sequences are in our films, absolutely vulgar. Sher Babar now has asked Naila to do that.”

“Well, she can always return the check and get the contract cancelled.”

“She can’t, because she has already used up the amount for the Art Academy she is founding.”

“She is in the soup, right?” I put in.

“I am going to get her out of that,” said Ustad forcefully.

“How?”

“Just watch me do that. Let me finish my fish and lassi, and we are off.”

“But these movie people always have hit men on their sides with evil-looking guns, itching to pull the trigger at the slightest pretext.”

“Oh, don’t worry about them. I’ll make them look like paper tigers. Now, come on, let’s go.”

Sher Babar was shooting at a house in Defence. His crew had made a mess of everything in the living room where we were made to sit. Soon there was a lull in the shooting, and Sher Babar, feigning a look of authority and stroking his short beard came to us along with two shady-looking muscular and bulky characters on his both sides. They looked watchfully at us, their right hands in their pockets, obviously to pull out a gun and do the damage.

“Mr. Sher Babar,” began Ustad. “ As I discussed on the phone, I would like you to meet Rafiq, who imports Pakistani movies for theaters in USA. He has international repute and is  stationed in Chicago. Most of the famous film personalities around the world remain in touch with him. Shahrukh Khan (A famous Indian actor) is his buddy; Preety Zinta (Indian film star) never signs a contract without consulting him. Luckily for you he has shown his interest in importing your Tapka Dunga in America….”

This came as a brazen shock and I began fidgeting in my chair. This new ‘info’ about me was entirely unexpected, and I wondered if I could play this new role effectively. I looked at Ustad sternly, while Sher was devouring me with a piercing gaze.

“He only imports outstanding movies,”continued Ustad, “ and from what we have heard about your forthcoming film, it appears that it would be a movie marvel. Of course, he would have to see the film first and discuss with his partners in Chicago before reaching a deal.”

Sher Babar was now taken in. His expression softened. Looking at a gem-studded ring on his finger, he said, “I assure you that Tapka Dunga would be a classic.”

“Then it is settled. However, there is another matter of prime importance I would like to discuss with you,” said Ustad. “ You have got some footage of my niece Naila, doing a little innocent movement on the beat and you intend to use the same in the film. Now, you want her to do a dance and song number, isn’t it?”

“Yes. As per the contract signed by her, she has to do it. She has already been paid,” said the director, once again looking authoritative.

“And I believe it would be your common vulgar version with the girl scantily dressed,” said Ustad in a raised voice. I could observe Babar stiffening and the hit guys moving their hands in their pockets dangerously.

“Of course,” said Sher Babar. “ There will be box-office elements. It would be like Madhuri Dixit doing a number in Tezaab.

Ustad Bilgrami now clenched his fists and said, “ You will do nothing of the sort!”

One of the hit guys whispered in the right ear of the director, “Boss, tapka dun kya?(Boss, should I shoot him?)

“Shut up,” yelled Sher Babar to him, and then all three of them began to laugh.

Ustad seemed to be very much at ease as he said, “I believe the film has to be approved by the Censor Board before it is released. Isn’t it?”

“That should not be a problem,” said Babar confidently.

“There will definitely be a big problem. Your film will not get an okay from the Censor Board,” assured Ustad.

“And how would that be?” asked the director, lighting a cigarette.

“Ever heard the names of Lala Musa and Hanif Heera?” asked Ustad.

“Yes. They are senior members of the Censor Board.”

“Ah, you know that. Do you also know that they are my childhood buddies, and that even now we meet regularly, at least once a month to discuss our films’ falling standard over dinner?” asked Ustad.

The moviemaker looked puzzled, and the Ustad continued, “ If you don’t believe me, just call them and ask them about their close friend Sucrat Arastu Bilgrami. Tell them I would like to speak to them regarding your forthcoming film. I’ll give you their business and home telephone numbers,” said Ustad, taking out a piece of paper from his pocket and handing it to him.

Sher Babar looked baffled. He wiped the sweat off his forehead, and tried not to show his discomfiture.  Ustad roared, “A word from me to Musa and Heera would completely doom your film.”

He dismissed the hit guys from the scene, leaned forward and asked softly, “Mr. Bilgrami, what actually would you like me to do?”

“Use the footage of Naila which you have, and don’t bother her again.”

“We will do just that,” assured Sher.

“And yes, make a new contract, deleting the fine prints from the bottom, and come to think of it, don’t you agree that a paltry sum of thirty-five thousand Rupees is not fair for such a lovely girl to grace your film with her presence?”

Sher Babar sat bolt upright. “ What do you want me to do?”

“Make it a nice cool figure of fifty thousand. Send the check for the additional amount along with the new contract to her first thing in the morning,” Ustad almost ordered.

Sher Babar was now like a robot in the hands of Ustad, and assured us that he would definitely do as asked, and requested Ustad to use his influence in getting the film approved without a cut.

“Only on one condition,” said Ustad. “ There will be no vulgarity in the film.”

Sher Babar agreed and then turned to me to remind me about importing the film and releasing it in American Cinema Houses. I assured him that I would do my best.

“One more thing,” put in Ustad. “Ask your man who was standing on your left side to trim his moustache. The hairs are growing wild, going into his mouth and nose.”

He readily agreed.

“Well, Ustad,” I said when we came out. “You have again hit the bull’s eye. What exactly is in you that makes you turn every situation into a win-win one?”

“Fish and Lassi. Never underestimate their power.”

“One more question. Do you really know Lala Musa and Hanif Heera that intimately?”

“Of course!  We used to play gilli danda ( A popular outdoor game played in South Asian countries) together in school.”

 

Rafiq Ebrahim is a freelance writer and novelist. He has written three novels: Glowing EmbersAdvertising, and The Other Side. The latest – Beyond the Crumbling Heights (Colors in the life of a Pakistani slum boy) — was published in USA in 2009 and is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and google.com/books. He has written for Potluck before

This is How I Will Tell You I Love You: A Short Essay in Four Parts

Part I: The Introduction

When I say I have never been faithful, I mean I have never been faithful. In the 3rd grade, after eating Apple Cinnamon Cherrios every morning for my entire life, I started eating Lucky Charms, alternating Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays for the Cherrios and Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays for the Lucky Charms. I know it wasn’t fair to the Cheerios, but I got bored.

In my freshman year of college, I started out wanting to be a journalism major, but then changed to a business major for the hell of it. Then I double majored in music and business. Then I changed back to music again. I know it wasn’t fair to business, but, I got bored.

On the day I was supposed to start my first job, I tried on sixteen dresses before almost walking out the door in the twelfth dress I tried on, before nixing both completely and going with the first dress I tried on. I have no explanation for this, besides, well... I guess a mixture of uncertainty and boredom.

On a Tuesday before we were together and after I took a walk in the park and had sorbet, I made out with two different men, seven hours apart. I won’t bore you with the details besides tell you that one of them looked kind of like Matt Damon in the dark and I actually don’t remember anything about the other one beside his name was Charles (and that’s an old fashioned name).  I think that we can all agree that I will chalk this occurrence up to straight up boredom.

In conclusion, I am unfaithful because I am bored. And I am bored quite frequently. I add all of this infidelity up to the fact that I am a Libra, and it is well known in the land of horoscopes that we cannot make choices. Which is why it’s something of a miracle when I tell you I love you more than I love changing my mind.

 

Part II: The Thesis:

I suppose all I have been waiting to say is that, in plain and simple terms, I love you.

I love you.

 

Part III:  The Evidence:

This is the part where I will back up my confession of love with such quotes from famous writers that will prove that love is a good idea and a beautiful thing and that you shouldn’t freak out when I use the word love.

“All You Need is Love”- The Beatles

“Happiness is anyone and anything that’s loved by you.” – Charlie Brown

“At the touch of love everyone becomes a poet.”- Plato

I thought these quotes might convince you because I know that these are some of your heroes. Even though you once told me “All You Need is Love” is one of your least favorite Beatles songs, and you like Charlie Brown more than Plato.

But,

I will tell you, honestly, despite and because of everything

The reason I don’t play in the traffic is you, love. The reason that I wake up in the morning is you, love. The reason that I laugh and dance in the rain and hate most every other man, is you, love.

 

Part IV: The Conclusion:

In conclusion, after much deliberation, I promise to be as faithful to you as the day is long and as honest with you as Abraham Lincoln reportedly was.

I promise to swear less and wear a little more makeup sometimes and to not burn the toast every morning like I commonly do when I used to make toast for myself because I always forgot about it and left it in the toaster oven.

You will never be like that toast to me.

I will never, ever leave you alone.

 

Amanda Dissinger works with all sorts of music in Brooklyn. She enjoys 80s pop music, kickboxing, watermelon and the library and is working on her first book of poetry, also titled "This is How I Will Tell You I Love You." She also contributes to Potluck. You can read her pieces here and here.

Two Poems


Anika Basquiat 
 

I stuffed a budding bouquet
in the head hole of your
black turtleneck sweater
you said you’d be off
breakdancing on trash island
only you know where, Pacific Ocean 
it’s for science, you said 
it’s for a good cause
I hung your replica on a curtain rod
and asked it about
the way a bird tastes
a dove, a pigeon
like chicken, it replied
but not the actual taste of chicken
but the idea of the taste of chicken
and now you’re here
and we’re standing face-to-face
you look at the bouquet
and it begins to explode with color 
purple hydrangea, pink peony
I look right into your eyes,
eyes that I have yet to find anything behind
or really anything inside
and I forget that eyes
are not blown from glass
but are made of fleshy goop
soft to the touch vulnerable
and maybe there’s nothing behind
or inside anyone’s eyes
especially yours, maybe
you put on your turtleneck sweater
like you are stuffing yourself
inside a crystal vase.

 

 

 

 

Super Saiyan 3 
 

A bundle of arrows, quiverless 
decorate the inside of your right thigh 
above the knee 
you let your summer knit dress 
resume its usual place in the world. 

You tell me what it was like 
to walk through walls as a child 
how your father spent late nights 
whispering proverbs in your left ear 
and how you were either too afraid 
or too honest to pretend sleep. 

We watched fog eat the tops of 
cypresses, firs 
while the sky bloomed 
into mood-ring-blue 
roofs began to steam 
and then you were gone. 

When we see each other again 
in traffic on a bridge 
that might’ve collapse today or yesterday 
I ask you about the tattoo 
but you tell me it’s been removed.

 

 

 

Jordan Burgess is an all around okay guy. He studies, works, and lives in Portland, Oregon.